French Vogue editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld's shock announcement that she's leaving the magazine has spurred one juicy rumor: that she was fired. As the story goes, luxury brands were threatening to pull their advertising, and so Roitfeld was pushed out.
It could be seen as curious that Roitfeld departed what would seem to be a dream position — she had near-bottomless Condé budgets, unassailable fashion cred, and great creative freedom — so suddenly. And "fashion magazine editor" is not a position with a history of job security (just ask Grace Mirabella! or Diana Vreeland! or any fashion editor with half a wit, ever). So perhaps the emergence of a "she was fired!" counter-narrative was inevitable.
Seemingly on the "she resigned" side of the ledger are these facts: Roitfeld had been at Vogue Paris for ten years, had worked with virtually every top photographer and designer to create some of fashion's most enduring imagery (link NSFW), and she recently celebrated her magazine's 90th birthday, a milestone of which Roitfeld says, "When we published our 90th anniversary issue in October, it felt almost like a double anniversary for me. I knew I wasn't really going to stay much longer. I think it's good to get out while you're ahead." And Roitfeld will now be able to double or perhaps even triple her Condé Nast salary by consulting and styling for luxury brands. (There were rumors that Roitfeld consulted on the side for brands including Max Mara while she was at Vogue Paris, but she denied that "firmly" to Women's Wear Daily today.)
Roitfeld herself says, "I'm surprised I even stuck it out this long, but what made me stay is having a boss like Jonathan [Newhouse], who is an incredible man who gave me total freedom, and God knows I pushed the boundaries."
According to Racked:
It appears that the Conde Nast-Carine Roitfeld fall-out was a long time coming. Our sources tell us the magazine's parent company was unhappy with all the bad press surrounding Roitfeld's alleged pay-for-play scandals — this year, alone — demanding huge sums of money for extracurricular consulting gigs and the enormous, public embarrassment of being banned from Balenciaga last season for abusing her position at Vogue. In the latter case, Roitfeld allegedly borrowed Balenciaga preview pieces and sent them to her client, Max Mara, to copy — "It wasn't the first time," one source tells us. "One [Balenciaga] precollection ended up, in its entirety, at Max Mara."
Of course, there were also rumors that the Vogue Paris/Balenciaga ban was fallout from the departure of Marie-Amélie Sauvé from her position as an editor at the magazine. (Sauvé was simultaneously a consultant for Balenciaga, and supposedly when the magazine broke with her, Balenciaga stopped lending to VP out of fealty to its most important freelancer.)
Racked goes on to report that, according to anonymous sources, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Chairman and C.E.O. Bernard Arnault "allegedly threatened Condé Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse with the removal of all LVMH ads from the next issue of Vogue Paris." Apparently, Arnault was upset that Roitfeld included too few editorial credits to LVMH brands (Roitfeld said in the past that she felt advertisers' influence was too constraining). According, again, to one anonymous source, Vogue Paris staffers were told of Roitfeld's departure via email — an email which referred to her leaving as a "mise à pied," or a firing.
One thing that may cast doubt on this version of events is the fact that the French employment law makes it extremely difficult to fire an employee in that country. French employers can and sometimes do, however, get around the law by taking measures they know will "encourage" an unwanted employee to resign.
Meanwhile, who are the candidates rumored to be in the running to succeed Roitfeld?
- Virginie Mouzat, 44, far left, is the fashion director of the French daily newspaper Le Figaro. Mouzat once described fashion shows as "a form of theater, nothing more." She is the author of two novels: Une Femme Sans Qualités, about an intersex woman, and La Vie Adulte, which is narrated by a 15-year-old girl growing up in the 70s after being abandoned by her mother. Mouzat is a cancer survivor, and she is happily infertile — "other women's children I can take for about two minutes, max." She also has a disabled twin sister. Mouzat got her start in fashion after studying art history and being hired as a PR agent for the French luxury group Cora-Revillon. (She didn't much like the job, and was eventually fired.) She also worked as a house model in Paris before joining the staff of Le Figaro in 1996. She is reputed to be aloof and somewhat cold, and she likes to smoke and drink. Mouzat boasts lit cred and fashion cred, but if the whispers about Roitfeld's frustration at being asked to shoot advertisers' wares, regardless of merit or style, are true, Condé Nast may not want to bring in a newspaper editor. Newspapers (and newspaper people) tend to have much more compunction about maintaining the editorial/advertising firewall than regular fashion magazine folks do.
- Emmanuelle Alt, 43, center left, is Vogue Paris' fashion director and one of Roitfeld's closest collaborators. Roitfeld and Alt worked together at the magazine 20ans in the 1990s, and Alt has styled some of Vogue Paris' most iconic recent editorial spreads and covers. She's also the woman who got Michael Jackson the Balmain hook-up — remember when he was wearing all those runway samples just before he died? Somewhat unexpectedly, Alt wasn't warned about Roitfeld's departure. (Roitfeld took the time to phone designers Riccardo Tisci, Hedi Slimane, Azzedine Alaïa, and Alber Elbaz, and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy's Delphine Arnault, but not her own staff.) If Condé Nast wants someone to carry the baton for Roitfeld — an editor-in-chief who, after all, lifted Vogue Paris' circulation by nearly 45% in her decade at the top — then Alt, who deeply understands Roitfeld's aesthetic sensibility, would be a great candidate. But if Condé wants a change, then Alt may be joining Roitfeld in collecting unemployment.
- Aliona Doletskaya, 55, center right, was until this past September the editor of Vogue Russia. Doletskaya studied philology at Moscow University, and began a Ph.D. at Oxford (though she never finished the program). While she was a student in Moscow, she struck and killed a woman in a traffic accident. Doletskaya worked as a literary translator before (like Mouzat) entering the world of fashion via luxury PR. (Doletskaya worked for De Beers.) She became editor-in-chief of Vogue Russia in 1998, and transformed it into a Vogue edition that, while never quite becoming a fashion must-look like Vogue Paris or Vogue Italia, was regarded as punching above its creative weight. Doletskaya has been married at least three times, including, during the time she was at De Beers, to Boris Asoyan, who was then the Russian ambassador to Botswana. (Her employment in the mineral industry was regarded as a conflict-of-interest.) Asoyan later died in Botswana, apparently under suspicious circumstances. So, Doletskaya already has Condé connections (her boss was also Roitfeld's boss: Condé Nast International's Jonathan Newhouse) and her work is well-regarded, but then there's the whole rumored-Russian-black-widow thing.
- Alexandra Golovanoff, 38, far right, is named in Women's Wear Daily's article about potential Roitfeld replacements, even though the trade seems at a loss to describe Golovanoff ("specializes in economics and fashion") in terms any deeper than her brief Wikipedia page. She presents a French television show called La Mode, La Mode, La Mode. Golovanoff was born in Russia and lived there until she was four years old; she began her career in finance, but found "it was a very macho environment, where I often felt like an object." She has two children. Golovanoff is a regular on the fashion week circuit, once hosted the Elite agency's "Model Look" competition, and is a favorite of street style photographers who dig her fur-skinny-jeans-and-heels brand of expensively disheveled chic. She's been a television journalist since the 1990s, but I couldn't find any information suggesting she has print experience.
As for Roitfeld's own future, her longtime friend and collaborator Tom Ford told the Times fashion writer Cathy Horyn that he and Roitfeld have no plans to work together again at present. (There had been plenty of speculation that Roitfeld might walk into a position at Ford's new women's wear division.) "It is nothing that we have even discussed," says Ford, "but of course I think she is brilliant and we are close friends so who knows about the future."
Meanwhile, Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci said, "Carine is completely unique. She has a revolutionary way of working, and her influence is and will continue to be present at every level of the fashion industry. She is one of the most courageous, elegant, avant-garde and bold women — a true visionary."